Workforce Wars: How C-Stores Can Navigate Today’s Trends and Win the Labor Battle

C store employee at checkout
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Convenience stores have evolved quite a bit since their predecessors—the petrol station, ice house and dairy store—dotted street corners and highways across America. With loyalty programs, foodservice offerings and carwash centers, the modern c-store chain is a significantly more sophisticated and complex operation. And at the heart of that operation’s success is a well-managed, empowered workforce.

Workforce management today has to balance employee engagement, performance management, recruiting and costs. There are also macroeconomic considerations such as politics and the regulatory climate. To put it simply, it’s complicated.

To develop a winning workforce strategy, c-store retailers should ensure their plans address the changing market trends and include automated, data-driven labor management technology.

Tackling the trends

Perhaps the most notable trend affecting c-store labor strategy today is the low level of unemployment—the lowest it’s been in decades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate reached 3.5% in September, a number not seen since 1969. The result is a tighter labor market. Low unemployment also leads to increased competition for qualified talent. This makes it even more difficult for c-stores to recruit and retain the resources they need—a fact well-demonstrated by the industry’s 118% employee turnover rate.

The challenge, however, doesn’t end there. In addition to low unemployment rates, nationwide wage raises mean labor costs are up, too. In fact, NACS’ latest industry data shows that wages increased by 4.4% from 2017 to 2018, and the average wage for a store associate increased to $10.74.

Also, healthcare costs continue to take up a significant portion of workforce and operational expenses. According to data from the National Business Group on Health’s 2020 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey[JB1] [JK2]  large U.S. employers, which include many convenience-store chains, could see healthcare costs increase by 6% next year.

Tips for winning the workforce war

  • Invest in an automated workforce management solution: Although many of these trends are unavoidable, c-store retailers should focus on what they can control. Investing in data-driven labor management software can inform the company’s hiring strategy, reduce overtime, optimize staffing levels based on transaction data, identify time-of-year turnover spikes and more.
  • Attract and retain the right talent: In a strong labor market, businesses have to do more to attract top-level applicants, such as offering flexible scheduling, paternity leave, longer maternity leave and other perks.
  • Boost employee engagement: Keeping employees engaged is just as important as getting them to walk through the door in the first place, and recognition is a proven tool. Younger generations tend to value being heard and appreciated at work. C-stores should use that to their advantage. A recognition program can be as simple as an employee of the month award, or a quirky quarterly awards event. Test a few ideas and see which one fits best.
  • Champion health and wellness: Aside from increasing employee out-of-pocket costs, c-stores can reduce healthcare expenses through wellness programs. Proactive employees taking positive steps in their own lives, such as quitting cigarettes, exercising more and losing weight, can produce better outcomes for employers. C-stores can encourage participation by offering discounts on premiums for actions such as smoking cessation or providing partial reimbursement for gym memberships.

When owners have the right strategy and an automated, data-driven solution, they’re more equipped to tackle challenges and generate the best workforce results for their companies.

To learn more about how PDI helps retailers automate and effectively manage every part of their workforce, visit



This post is sponsored by PDI

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